December 31st, 2012

Top 10 Posts for 2012, Plus a Couple Favorites

hwtk top posts 2012

I’m looking through my statistics for the year to see what my top posts this year were, in terms of traffic. It’s always interesting to see what really did well. I’m not counting posts from previous years that are still generating traffic in this roundup, although perhaps I should. I’ll also add on a couple personal favorites at the end that for whatever reason didn’t take off very well, whether due to time or some other factor. After all, newer posts are at a big disadvantage.

This also has to do only with the blog, not other pages on this site. It is perhaps not surprising that my work at home jobs page has the most visitors on this site.

Top 10 Posts

1. So You Can’t Work From Home Stuffing Envelopes. What Can You Do?
I’m not at all surprised that this one did well. There are plenty of people who still think envelope stuffing is a possible option. Fortunately, there are many other options out there.

2. 30+ Ideas For Working at Home
I just said there were more options, didn’t I? Here some are! Funny how these things work out.

3. Work at Home Jobs for Military Spouses
Working at home is a wonderful option for many military wives and husbands. The flexibility of work that can be done almost no matter where you live is a huge deal when you might have to move frequently.

4. 11 Ways to Prepare to Work at Home Over the Summer
Working at home while the kids are out of school isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. Kids need you more in summer, and that can make it really hard to be productive.

5. What Kind of Work From Home Training Do You Need?
In so many ways, work at home jobs are like any other. Often enough you need some amount of training to so much as qualify for them. Just make sure you don’t fall for scams when you’re looking for job training.

6. Where Do You Get Work From Home Business Ideas?
Aw heck. Not everyone wants an employer. Some want to own their own business. Now all you need is an idea. Got tips for you right here.

7. 6 Ways to Speed Up Your Work at Home Job Hunt
Ugh! Looking for work anywhere is usually a slow process, but it can be even worse when you want something home based. Using online resources correctly really speeds things up.

8. Making Time For Fitness While Working at Home
One of the risks with being home all the time is that it’s way too easy to sit all day. Here’s some encouragement to get up and get moving.

9. 10 Open Source Tools to Help You Work at Home
Open source tools can really help you save money on software. They aren’t appropriate for all uses, especially if a job requires a particular software be used, but the rest of the time, they’re great.

10. Choosing Apps for Your Home Business
Apps. Of course we all love apps these days. They can do so much for us when we’re on the go.

And now a few personal favorites….

Silent Kids
Just my own little version of Silent Night, but for moms with children who are just being a little too quiet for her peace of mind. As we all know, there’s usually a good reason for that.

Does Work From Home Really Have Flexible Hours?
People usually assume working at home means you can work really flexible hours. That’s just not always true.

Caine’s Arcade, or Why You Shouldn’t Give Up When Business Is Slow
This kid was just so cute and determined.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

December 3rd, 2012

20 Ways to Get Ideas For a Blog Post

Writing content for your website is difficult at times. Sure, there are days where the ideas just flow, but other times you can sit and stare at your monitor trying to come up with something to say. That’s just the life of a writer. Here are some ways to get ideas for a blog post that you may not have considered lately.

1. Comments From Your Social Media Pages

Did a recent post generate discussion on your social media pages? Take off from that and cover whatever new angles the comments brought up.

2. Respond to Someone Else’s Articles

Sometimes the stuff you read elsewhere can inspire you. Don’t limit yourself to commenting on their websites, consider whether or not an article on your own site makes for a better response. Make sure you link back to the article that inspired you. They get a link, you get inspiration for more content on your site. Do it right and there’s some serious mutual benefit.

3. Refresh Old Content

Your old posts may still be good stuff, but often enough there’s something more you can add to it or update. Little changes make a big difference. It’s also a great way to bring up a familiar to you topic to new readers who may not be aware of it.

4. Answer Frequently Asked Questions

If people email you a lot of questions or post a lot of questions in your comments, you probably have some you see over and over again. Write up a good blog post. You may be able to write an entire post on a single question or cover a bunch of them in one shot, depending on how much detail is required.

5. Read Related Forums

Posting on relevant forums with a signature line can be good marketing, but it can also help you get ideas for your blog. Look at what people need from the forum. What do they talk about? If it’s relevant there, you can probably work it into a blog post.

6. Check Your Analytics

How do people find your website? The search phrases people use can tell you a lot about what people want from your site. Write more about those subjects.

7. Check Relevant Hashtags

Twitter hashtags are great for finding out what people think is relevant to what you do. Keep an eye on what’s getting tagged as relevant and figure out how to use it.

8. Do Keyword Research

You don’t have to have a fancy tool like Market Samurai (although I love it!) to do keyword research for your blog posts. You can do quick research using the free Google Keyword Tool to discover actual phrases people search for. Find that perfect combination of relevance, low competition and adequate number of searches to find your next subject.

9. Use Google Suggest

Rather like using the Google Keyword Tool, but suggested search can come up with some really odd stuff. These searches can be pretty common, so I suggest checking them out with the keyword tool to see if there’s a better phrase out there. Uber Suggest is a website that compiles a list of suggested terms from any keyword you put in, and is another good option.

10. Compile Great Information on a Topic

Your posts, someone else’s posts, whatever makes the list useful. Linking out to other sites can be good for your site, and linking to your own information can help your readers find information they didn’t know you offered. A well compiled post can itself be a great resource for your readers.

11. Ask Your Readers What They Need

The people who know best what they’d like to hear from you are your readers. Ask them in your blog, on your Facebook page, your Twitter stream or wherever else, what they wish you’d blog about.

12. Make a How Not To Post

How to posts are common. Have a little fun and make a how not to post. I did this some time back with my how to fall for a work at home scam post some time back – most posts are about how to avoid falling for work at home scams, so I twisted that around just a little bit for the fun of it.

13. Share Your Milestones

Have you reached a great milestone in your business? It can be as simple as an anniversary or as big as reaching a certain goal.

14. Discuss a Myth

Most industries have their myths, such as the notion that running a home business is always ridiculously easy, what with the fancy house and cars. Discuss a myth relevant to your site and explain why it just isn’t true.

15. Check Pinterest

What relevant pins are trending in your industry? This works better for some subjects than others, but can have great potential, especially if your take on it is highly pinnable.

16. Share Photos and Other Images

People love to share photos. While you need to make sure that the photos you use are okay for use on your website, if you want it to spread socially you should also make sure that the photos will be okay for that.

17. Make an Infographic

A good infographic is hard to make, but can be utterly worthwhile. Share some great information in an infographic and make sure it’s easy to share. Include code for those who want to embed it on their own site.

18. Use Yahoo! Answers

Yahoo! Answers is a wonderful place to discover what people want to know. You don’t have to answer questions on the Answers site itself – if someone’s asking there, odds are people are wondering the same thing elsewhere and using a search engine to find the answer.

19. Check Current News

Is there anything happening in current news that you can relate to your subject. Be sensitive to what’s going on, but relating to news stories can bring in a lot of visitors. Consider how a particular bit of news will impact your readers or your business, for example.

20. Use Videos

Make your own video or embed a relevant one from YouTube and discuss it in your blog post. You don’t have to have a perfect setup to record something all your own to make use of video. Just find something and include it in an article. Making your own is most effective, of course, but it’s not for everyone.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

October 17th, 2011

Are You Following All the Rules When Writing Content for Your Websites?

You can read all kinds of rules about what makes for great website content. There are plenty of opinions out there on how long an article or blog post should be, the use of bullet points or lists, paragraph length and so forth. If that’s not your writing style, it can be hard to write in a way that others say is the best way to go. Is it really necessary to follow such rules when you’re writing for your site?

I don’t believe you need to do that. I follow one main rule when I write, which is to keep it interesting and informative. I suppose that could be phrased as two rules, but you get the idea. I don’t stress about article length, paragraph length, bullet points, etc. I’d rather be concerned with presenting the information clearly, in a way I can enjoy writing it, and that will hopefully attract readers.

Let’s take a look at some of these rules.

Rule 1: Write short articles and/or blog posts.

The idea here is that people have short attention spans online, and so you need to be able to make your point quickly, or you lose them. I firmly disagree with this one.

Write your articles and posts as long as they need to be for the topic. If 200 words is enough, they’re enough. Don’t overdo it. If 2000 words is what it takes, write those 2000 words. You may be able to break up such a long article into shorter articles, but sometimes you’ll feel better leaving it as one big article. Just relax. I know some people swear by the benefits of longer articles, as this allows for the use of more related keywords.

I believe that your ability to keep people interested is far more important than whether or not you write a long article. If it’s information they want and it’s well written, people will read long posts, even online.

Rule 2: Use bullet points or lists.

Yes, this post is written as a sort of list, but it works well for this topic. It doesn’t always work that way.

I’ll admit to a fondness for lists because they allow me to give visual separation to subtopics within a post, which is supposed to make them more readable. That’s certainly a good thing. Just don’t drive yourself up the wall trying to find a way to make a post into a list or bullet points if it doesn’t work out that way.

Rule 3: Write short paragraphs.

This rule comes from the idea that shorter paragraphs are easier to read online. It’s probably true enough, but that doesn’t mean a short paragraph should be a firm rule.

Look instead at what is a logical length for the paragraph. Is it expressing your complete thought? You shouldn’t be chopping up a paragraph into two or three paragraphs just because you read that shorter paragraphs are better. You should be writing paragraphs that make sense as a whole.

Rule 4: Go for the controversy.

Some people are big on going for controversy as a way to bring traffic to their websites. It can work. Having an opinion online is a good thing. Just be sure you express it well.

You certainly don’t want to introduce a controversial topic and then not state your own opinion. Discussing and even sympathizing with both sides is good, but have an opinion of your own. You don’t have to agree with everyone. Just back up your opinion with facts or reasons why you believe it.

Having an opinion doesn’t mean you have to be offensive about it, although if that’s your persona, go for it and be ready for battle. Some people enjoy that, and others don’t. It’s not my style, but that just means I don’t go for the controversy very often.

Not every topic is really conducive to controversy. People get all heated up on various parenting topics, for example, and you can maybe even get some venom going on Mac vs. PC debate, but it’s going to be a bit more difficult if you’re writing about the best lawn mower for a small yard. If your topic doesn’t have a lot of controversy, you can look awfully silly trying to make some. Then again, if you thought your topic wasn’t controversial but it turns out to be, make the best of it.

Rule 5: Stick with what’s popular in your niche.

It’s kind of a funny thing. It’s often recommended that you pick a tight niche to cut down on the competition, but you’re also supposed to stick with what’s popular within your niche.

The problem with sticking with the popular topics is that you don’t stand out enough. Write about the popular stuff, absolutely, but make sure you delve into corners that others pay less attention to, especially the facets you prefer. Have content that stands out from what the rest are doing.

Remember that a big part of your success comes from your own interest in your niche. It shows when you’re truly interested in the information you’re sharing and it shows when you just put up something because you felt you had to.

Certainly the popular topics have a lot of benefits. They’re areas which can generate a lot of search engine traffic and blog comments. If you get into less popular topics or go into better detail than others do on the popular topics, you’re giving your readers something more to look forward to. That’s a very good thing, especially if you want people coming back to your site.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

August 15th, 2011

Have You Considered Buying Headway Theme For Your WordPress Blog?

The right theme for your WordPress blog does more than make it look good. It can make your blog still more search engine friendly. That’s why many people buy WordPress themes such as Headway. They make a lot of sense.

I’m not currently using Headway on this blog. Chalk it up to a lack of time or laziness, your pick. This blog will take more time to change over if I want it to continue to match the rest of the site. That said, I am using Headway theme on some of my other sites, and I really like it. I’ll make it work here eventually; all I need is some of that really scarce available time.

Flexibility

Headway is a very flexible theme. It comes pretty plain out of the box, but it doesn’t take long to improve on that, especially if you have your header graphic ready or will use a simple text header. The first thing Headway has you do when you go into the Visual Editor is the basic setup for your blog, such as placing the header, choosing initial colors (easily changed later), and deciding how many sidebars to have and where they will be placed.

You tell Headway where you want the sidebars used. If you don’t want a sidebar on pages, but you want them on posts, or you want different sidebars for those areas, you can arrange that. Widget compatible sidebars are available, and you can tell Headway when you want a sidebar to use the same widgets as another sidebar, making it easy to change them across the site.

The Visual Editor lets you see the changes as you go, and post them to your site when you’re ready. It’s much nicer than having to make a change in your site, then reload your blog to see the changes, hoping you haven’t made some simple mistake that completely ruins the layout until you find it.

Headway also has Leafs. These are a variety of ways to add content to your blog, once again, deciding where each goes. You can use a Leaf to add HTML or PHP to a page, add an image rotator and more.

Search Engine Optimization

WordPress sites in general are pretty search engine friendly, but Headway gives you more options. It has a panel to control various SEO options and every post allows you to write your own meta description or choose to noindex a page. There are checkboxes to have common areas marked “noindex.” It even cleans up your post slugs if you choose to have it do so.

Easy To Use

I found Headway confusing for a very short time, mostly due to the differences in how I’m used to editing themes, but I quickly got the hang of it. Most times you won’t be doing much at all with HTML or PHP, short of adding in analytics code or ad code. Mostly it will be drag and drop, choosing colors and considering your SEO options.

Is It Time to Buy Headway Theme?

If Headway is a theme you’ve been thinking about buying, now is absolutely the time to do so. They’re working on version 3.0, and when that is released, the pricing will go through a major change. You won’t be able to buy Headway with a one time payment anymore. They’re moving to a subscription model when they release the new version. Once that launch comes, current Headway owners will be grandfathered in, and still get their updates and support, but new owners will have to maintain a subscription. I don’t know what prices will be, but over time paying once makes far more sense.

Am I an affiliate? Of course. I use the product too.

Headway — The Drag & Drop Theme For WordPress

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

August 25th, 2010

When Is a Blog a Business?

There’s some discussion going on about Philadelphia requiring a blogger to get a business license, despite that she has earned only $50 over the past few years. It’s triggered a lot of discussion about when a blog is a business and when it’s not.

My opinion isn’t all that popular with some people. If you’re trying to earn money with your blog, you’re trying to run a business. Whether or not you’re making a profit has nothing to do with it. Brick and mortar businesses have to pay for a license no matter their profit, and they have larger expenses than most online businesses; there’s no reason to exempt online businesses that aren’t earning a profit.

That said, I think it would be more reasonable for cities to only require a license once you’re earning a certain amount per year. A business earning as little as Bess is earning off her blog could easily be called a hobby by the IRS.

It’s hard to earn money by running a blog. The people who earn big money off their blogs are the exception.

If you’re running ads on your blog, of course you’re trying to make it into a business. You’re trying to earn money after all. But just as most businesses fail in the first few years in the brick and mortar world, most blogs won’t earn significant money in their first years, quite likely ever.

Doesn’t mean you aren’t running a business, just that you aren’t succeeding at earning much money at it.

I don’t necessarily agree that a business license should be required when earnings are so low, but most places would call it one. I’d like to see some limitations on that, but it isn’t the case in every city. Some do limit when they tax businesses, but you may still need the license.

If you’re concerned about your personal blog being considered a business, don’t monetize it until you think it will make money. That means build your readership up first. Leave off the ads and other sources of income from a blog and no one will regard it as a business. Yet you can easily turn it into one when you believe your traffic justifies adding in ads.

Many communities have hefty fines for those who do not properly license their business. Home businesses of all sorts easily fall through the cracks, but strictly speaking home businesses in most areas are required to get a license. These rules are neither unreasonable nor new. It’s just that cities are noticing online businesses more.

Where Is Your Business Located?

Some people argue that their business isn’t really located at their home. They feel it’s more where their server is. They try to use that as a reason why they shouldn’t have to get a business license in their location.

I very much doubt that is the case. I also don’t think you would want it to be the case. You’d have to deal with licensing your business where your server is, which is not always possible to do online.

Your physical presence has much more to do with where your business is located.  You do the work of creating your blog where you are. Even if you blog a lot at the local coffee shop, you’ll want to call your home the location of your business.

When Is It a Hobby?

The IRS gives these criteria for considering whether you have a business or a hobby:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Do you depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Do you expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

My own, unprofessional assessment would call Bess’ blog a hobby, if only because there’s no way she depends on the income from it. If she’s expecting to make a better profit in some years, my assessment could be wrong. I’m not her and I’m not a tax professional, so I can only take my best guess.

If she can convince the right folks in Philadelphia that it’s a hobby by IRS criteria, Bess has a good chance of not having to pay the license fee. Only trouble is that the ads show the blog is trying to earn money. All too easy to say that makes it a business.

On the plus side of calling it a business is that you can deduct expenses, which you generally can’t do for a hobby. Just be sure that you’re doing it well enough that the IRS doesn’t check things over in a few years and decide that it’s a hobby because it has never been profitable.

Where Would I Draw the Line?

If it were up to me, I would love to see business licenses required once a business is bringing in a certain amount per month. That would encourage people to start a business. They could even say it’s before deductions or expenses so that businesses can’t just claim they don’t have any income. Beneath that level, let the city consider it a hobby that earns money.

If the business involves health or safety, other licensing right from the start makes sense.

Requiring a business license right from the start is discouraging to new businesses. It’s an expense, and if you want to have a business you’re going to have expenses, but anything that makes it easier for businesses to start will encourage people to try starting one.

But even if you do have to pay for a business license and hosting in the early days of your blog or other online business, remember you have it easy. Brick and mortar businesses have to deal with far higher expenses to get started, and yet people start them all the time. Much as we might like special treatment, there’s nothing special about any sort of online business that deserves different treatment from the brick and mortar variety.

If you don’t have a business license or home occupation permit for your online business, check with your city to see if you need one. Most places they’re pretty reasonable. Rules vary from place to place, so I can’t give you any more specific help than that to see if you need one.

If you’re in doubt, ask for help from a professional. SCORE is a good general resource for business, and you can contact your city hall if you have questions about licensing requirements. You should be able to check their website and figure out if you’re likely to need anything for your online business.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.